As the gap between rich and poor grows larger, a surge in philanthropy is sweeping the African continent, most markedly in South Africa. Many of the newly rich still donate only a tiny portion of their wealth. But some South Africans have spent their lives giving back, such as businessman Linda Twala.
Linda Twala was born and raised in Johannesburg's impoverished Alexandra township (seen in the background), and has made philanthropy his life's work. He runs a daycare centre for township children, as well as a soup kitchen, a community centre for children and senior citizens, and other projects. Erin Conway-Smith
Meet Mr. Twala
If the newly wealthy often prefer to be consumers, rather than givers, the task instead falls to more seasoned philanthropists such as Linda Twala, a 68-year-old businessman who lives in Alexandra, one of the poorest and most crime-ridden townships in Johannesburg.
Children head home with their supper from Linda Twala's soup kitchen and community centre, in Johannesburg's Alexandra township. Erin Conway-Smith
Past and present
Mr. Twala remembers how his mother would give half of his meals to hungry people in the township. One of the poorest was an elderly woman, Rosie Shabalala, who asked him to make her a coffin when she died. She died in 1967 and though he is not a carpenter by training, Mr. Twala fulfilled his promise by building a simple wooden coffin for her. His generosity inspired others to donate money for the old woman’s funeral and tombstone. “I ended up burying lots of people who had no relatives,” he says. Later, he was contracted to collect garbage in the township, and he immediately donated most of his profits to charity. He eventually lost the contract because he refused to pay a bribe to corrupt officials, but he stayed in philanthropy. Today, he runs a community centre for children and senior citizens, including a daycare centre, a soup kitchen, a library, a recreation centre and job-creation programs. “I felt it was a calling,” he says. “I didn’t feel good when somebody was going to sleep without food or blankets.”
Linda Twala is seen at a daycare for children in Johannesburg's Alexandra township. He also runs a soup kitchen, and a community centre for children and senior citizens. Erin Conway-Smith
He has become a mentor to a group of young people who want to follow in his footsteps. “They’ll learn how to help people instead of lining their own pockets,” he says. “They’ll be our future leaders. I’ll be happy to die and leave that legacy.”